Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
Richard Haass is rumored to be set to become new Middle East pointman (see Jim Lobe below). This would be a good choice. See his profile at Wikipedia. Richard Nathan Haass (born July 28, 1951, Brooklyn) has been president of the Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, prior to which he was Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State and a close advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell. See, “The New Middle East,” in Foreign Affairs 2006.
Syria Implies Terms for Resumption of Talks with Israel, As-Sharq al-Awsat (Thanks Alex)
Walid Mouallem, Syria’s Foreign Minister, explains that Syria set its terms for a resumption of indirect negotiations with Israel. They are:
1) Hudna between Hamas and Israel
2) Opening up access to Gaza
3) Ensuring that Israel’s engagement with the Syrians will not be at the expense of the Palestinian track.
وعن إيقاف سورية للمفاوضات غير المباشرة عبر الوسيط التركي رداً على العدوان الإسرائيلي، أوضح الوزير المعلم أن «هذه المحادثات انطلقت في ظل تهدئة بين حماس وإسرائيل مدتها ستة أشهر وتنص على رفع الحصار»، مؤكداً أن إسرائيل هي التي خرقت هذه التهدئة، قبل أن يتابع «أن شرط المحادثات غير المباشرة كما يعرف الأشقاء في تركيا كان ألا تقوم إسرائيل بأي عمل عسكري ضد غزة أو الضفة الغربية وأن لا يكون ذلك على حساب المسار الفلسطيني ومن الطبيعي عندما قامت إسرائيل بهذا العدوان الهمجي ضد غزة أن تتوقف المحادثات غير المباشرة رغم أن استعادة الجولان المحتل هو أمر مهم وغال بالنسبة لسورية ويشكل أولوية لكن هذا الموقف مهم من جانب القيادة السورية لأن ما يجري في غزة من مجازر يستحق وقف هذه المحادثات غير المباشرة ويبرهن أن إسرائيل ليست لديها إرادة صنع السلام»
Mouallem was much more vague about “terms” than the Assharq Alawsat article suggests. The context is provided below. Mouallem preserves flexibility for Syria to restart talks in the future.
Syria: Israel proved it doesn’t want peace
Roee Nahmias Published: 01.05.09/ Israel News
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem defined the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip as “a barbaric act any way you look at it” and called on the international community “to try those responsible to these war crimes which violate international law, including the Geneva Treaty.”
In a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan after completing a series of meetings in Ankara, Moallem said, “I came to Turkey to discuss ways to bring about an immediate ceasefire, a removal of the blockade and the opening of all crossings, as well as finding a mechanism to achieve these goals.
“I stress to you that our opinions are similar and that we have formed a joint stance.”…. Turkish Foreign Minister Babacan called on Israel to hold its fire immediately. ….
“Relying on the Security Council at this stage is imaginary and wont’ achieve a thing,” he claimed. Moallem said the indirect Turkish-mediated talks between Syria and Israel were halted “naturally”.
“When the indirect talks began there was an agreement on a lull between Hamas and Israel achieved through Egypt. It was valid for six months, during which the siege should have been lifted, but Israel violated it two weeks later,” the Syrian minister argued.
“Turkey knew that the talks between us were being held as long as Israel didn’t launch a military operation in Gaza or in the West Bank and that this would not be at the expense of the Palestinians. It was natural that in such a situation, with the aggression on Gaza, the talks would be halted.
“Returning the Golan Heights is important, but this stance is also important to the Syrian leadership. This aggression proves that Israel has no desire for peace.”
Dennis Ross Will Get Iran File, Haass will get Israel-Arab conflict, says Nelson Report: by Jim Lobe
“…Dennis Ross will become Special Envoy for Iran, reporting directly to SecState-designate Clinton, rather than to the White House. …
Nelson also reports that Richard Haass will be Special Envoy for Israel-Arab affairs, apparently something of a compromise between Ross and Dan Kurtzer. For the direction he is likely to take, particularly regarding the Palestinian and Syrian tracks, see my article on his recent report co-authored with Martin Indyk. They also wrote a version of their policy recommendations in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs.
Nelson reports that Richard Holbrooke will become and Special Envoy for India and Pakistan and Anne Marie Slaughter head of Policy Planning, among many other likely appointments of particular relevance to Asia policy.”
Also see Lobe’s « Heilbrunn Reviews Neo-Con Travails
Beyond Iraq: A New U.S. Strategy for the Middle East
By Indyk and Haass
View article at Foreign Affairs, January/February 2009
Iraq has dominated U.S. policy in the Middle East for the last six years, but this is no longer necessary. The Obama administration will be able to reduce the U.S. presence in Iraq while pursuing a grand bargain with Iran, promoting peace between Jerusalem and Damascus, and forging a final-status Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
Khalid Mish`al, This brutality will never break our will to be free
For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start
The Guardian, Tuesday 6 January 2009
For 18 months my people in Gaza have been under siege, incarcerated inside the world’s biggest prison, sealed off from land, air and sea, caged and starved, denied even medication for our sick. After the slow death policy came the bombardment. In this most densely populated of places, nothing has been spared Israel’s warplanes, from government buildings to homes, mosques, hospitals, schools and markets. More than 540 have been killed and thousands permanently maimed. A third are women and children. Whole families have been massacred, some while they slept.
This river of blood is being shed under lies and false pretexts. For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start. Israel was required to open crossings to Gaza, and extend the truce to the West Bank. It proceeded to tighten its deadly siege of Gaza, repeatedly cutting electricity and water supplies. The collective punishment did not halt, but accelerated – as did the assassinations and killings. Thirty Gazans were killed by Israeli fire and hundreds of patients died as a direct effect of the siege during the so-called ceasefire. Israel enjoyed a period of calm. Our people did not….. (read the rest)
Bush Plan Eliminated Obstacle to Gaza Assault
Inter Press Service | Gareth Porter | January 5, 2009
WASHINGTON, Jan 5 (IPS) – Until mid-2007, there was a serious political obstacle to a massive conventional war by Israel against Hamas in Gaza: the fact that Hamas had won free and fair elections for the Palestinian parliament and was still the leading faction in a fully legitimate government.
But the George W. Bush administration helped Israel eliminate that obstacle by deliberately provoking Hamas to seize power in Gaza. That plan was aimed at getting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the democratically elected Hamas government — something Bush had tried unsuccessfully to do for many months….
A New Middle Eastern Cold War
Michael Young, 01.05.09
The true theater behind Gaza.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — The term “Arab cold war” was popularized by the late American scholar Malcolm Kerr, who in 1971 published a book of the same name. A deserving classic at a concise 166 pages (with index), The Arab Cold War examined how the Arab world of the 1950s and 1960s was governed by “urgent appeals to Arab unity,” when the reality was that “its governments and parties [were] dominated by bitter rivalry.”….
…. Judging from the limited Egyptian reaction to his injunctions, Nasrallah overplayed his hand. The Arab states, mediocre as they are, are more solid than their enemies imagine. Militant Islamist groups may be better at fighting Israel, but they cannot substitute for what states offer. However, the traditional Arab powerhouses are being marginalized by the more dynamic non-Arab states on their periphery–Iran, Turkey and Israel–as well as by some Arab states, such as Syria and Qatar, that have profited from the widening rifts provoked by the new Middle Eastern cold war.
What lessons are there for the United States here? The Obama administration should recognize these dynamics and accept that its allies are less credible because they are undemocratic, have narrow legitimacy, and offer no hope of amelioration to their peoples, while Israel further undermines them by denying a political horizon to the Palestinians.
Arab democratization is a bad word for many Obama Middle East hands, who seek a return to a political realism justifying making deals with America’s foes. Democracy-building smacks too much of George W. Bush. Yet unless the Arabs open their societies up in states that are more than monuments to intimidation, America’s allies will continue to lose ground, and America with them. In the realism game, Iran and Syria, like the militant Islamists, are better than Washington. The Americans won one cold war, but victory in this Middle Eastern version may be dodgier.
An Iraqi debt: Editorial of the Baltimore Sun
Our view: America should do more to aid 2 million refugees from the war we started
January 4, 2009
Violence is significantly lower these days in Iraq, and the Americans who still keep the peace there are busy planning for a significant troop withdrawal over the next 18 months. But that country’s hopes for a brighter economic future are shadowed by the loss of more than 2 million refugees – many of them doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers – who have fled to Jordan, Syria and other neighboring countries.
Most of these displaced people are afraid to return to Iraq, which they believe remains unsafe. Now they are trapped in countries where they are less than welcome and sinking into poverty. It’s a plight laid out in vivid detail in a recent series of stories by Baltimore Sun reporter Matthew Hay Brown.
Their continued exile represents a challenge that America has a responsibility to deal with. The United States has resettled more than 16,000 Iraqis over the past two years. The Bush administration has contributed more than $500 million to the United Nations and other organizations to address the crisis. But as the country that unleashed the chaos that fed the Iraqi exodus, America should be doing much more.
During last year’s presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to provide at least $2 billion to expand services to these Iraqi refugees, and that’s a pledge he must keep, if this nation is to accept its moral responsibility to help victims of the war.
Ending the War in Gaza International Crisis Group
RIYADH (AFP)–A member of the Saudi royal family blasted the U.S. government on Tuesday for its “reckless” position towards Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip.
“The Bush administration has left you (with) a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza,” Prince Turki al-Faisal said in a message directed at President-elect Barack Obama. “Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians and we seek martyrdom for God and for Palestine, following those who died in Gaza,” Faisal, a former ambassador to the U.S., said at a forum on relations between the Gulf region and the U.S.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal slammed Israeli politicians for “shedding Palestinian blood in what has become a tactic for Israeli parties to settle their election battles.” In an address read out at the forum by his deputy, the minister said peace in the region won’t be achieved unless Israel pulls out of the territories it occupies.
He called on Obama to live up to his campaign message of “change,” urging co-operation with the Arab world. “Together we can reach a peaceful and permanent solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict,” he said.